Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.

From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?"

Review: I've read quite a bit of Shannon Hale's work, so the warmth and wit in this book felt happily familiar.  The sci-fi setting worried me, though.  Sci-fi isn't usually my favorite genre, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I am happy to report, however, that Hale won me over with this story, and I enjoyed every page of it.

Maisie is a delightful protagonist.  She is level-headed and clever and kind.  I was extremely happy with the way Hale treated her one-armed-ness.  It's a part of who she is, and comes into play at certain moments in time, but it does not define her.  Maisie could have easily turned into a stereotype, but she's not, and her story reflects that.  Having one arm is such a small part of Maisie's identity that I almost forgot about it a few times.  It just wasn't all that relevant a lot of the time.  

The story was surprising.  It was different than much of what I've read lately, and I enjoyed being surprised.  I couldn't predict what would happen next, and I LOVE when that happens.  The science was impressive without being over-the-top.  The plot was intense and unpredictable without being random.  There was one moment when I honestly had no idea who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.  That was the moment when I muttered under my breath, "I LOVE THIS BOOK."  It was complicated and gripping and thrilling and heartbreaking and just really, really good.

All of this is to say that the sooner you drop the idea that this book is about a one-armed-girl who goes to astronaut camp, the better.  Maisie is much more than a one-armed-girl, and this story is much more complex than kids going to an astronaut camp.  If you go in open minded and without expectations, this book is likely to sweep you up in adventure, adrenaline, suspense, and excitement.  If you do go in with Expectations, well, you'll probably just be confused.  

Bottom Line: A great addition to Hale's novels!  The sci-fi is different, but it was fun to get something new-tasting from an author with whom I'm already familiar.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book-to-Film: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Here's the newest trailer for Mockingjay Part 1, coming this November.  Katniss looks appropriately disturbed and conflicted at the path down which her actions have led her country.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

Ummm.... I really had no idea what the answer to this was without seriously analyzing my bookshelves.  Upon further evaluation, I discovered that authors of series I've read have a huge advantage since I'm one of those particular types who goes slightly bonkers if the set I own is incomplete, even if I don't like the series all that much.  I was also surprised at the lack of classic authors represented, since several of my shelves are dedicated to only classics.  Hawthorne and Dickens and Hemingway, etc., are all fabulous, but I only own one or two books from each.  It fills shelves, but doesn't surpass my trilogy collection in terms of numbers by author.  Here are my somewhat surprising results!  Enjoy your peek into my bookshelves:

10. Leigh Bardugo (3)
The Grisha Series

9. Marissa Meyer (3)
The Lunar Chronicles

8. Suzanne Collins (3)
The Hunger Games Series

7. Shannon Hale (3)
Austenland, The Actor and the Housewife, and Book of A Thousand Days

6. Agatha Christie (5)
And Then There Were None, They Came to Baghdad, Cards on the Table, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

5. Stephenie Meyer (5)
The Twilight Series, The Host

4. Jane Austen (5)
Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and two copies of Pride and Prejudice

3. C.S. Lewis (9)
The Chronicles of Narnia, and two copies of The Screwtape Letters

2. J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith (11)
The Harry Potter Series, Both Cormoran Strike Novels, The Casual Vacancy, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard

1. William Shakespeare (13)
Various plays and books of sonnets, including two full blown anthologies.  I blame grad school.

Eight women and two men; Six living authors, four dead authors; Six penned a series, four did not.  Huh.

What about you?  Do you randomly own a lot of books by the same author?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Friday, July 25, 2014

Harry Potter Spells We Actually Need

A few highlights from Buzz Feed's list:
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed
Matt Bellassai / BuzzFeed

And my personal favorite:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased, because I will buy anything Rowling writes
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott."

Review: I had two extremely disparate reactions to this novel: awe and admiration at Galbraith's plotting, and disappointment at Galbraith's characters.

First, the plot.  It was Amazing.  Incredible.  Phenomenal.  And all sorts of other positive adjectives.  I closed the last page and immediately suffered from a massive book hangover.  I honestly didn't pick up another book for days afterwards, because I had to come to terms with the fact that none of the next fifty books I read would have a plot this carefully and precisely written.

Having a tightly written plot is always important, but especially so in mysteries.  You shouldn't be able to predict the outcome, but, once you come to the grand reveal, you shouldn't be surprised either.  It's a difficult thing to accomplish, but Galbraith walks that line fantastically well.  

Which kind of makes the disappointing characterization even more of a let down.  Usually when characterization isn't done very well you can tell because all the characters will sound the same.  That is not the case here.  Each character was distinct and unique.  I had no trouble telling the characters apart.  The trouble for me was that, among the diverse cast in this book, I wasn't really rooting for anyone.

Cormoran Strike is a brilliant detective.  He is also selfish and manipulative, and is only nice to other people if he thinks he can personally benefit from being nice to them.  I didn't really like being in his head all that much, when he wasn't putting puzzle pieces together.  I had similar reactions to the other characters.  I understand that everyone has negative personality traits in real life, but they all just seemed to have so many of them.  (Maybe because we're seeing them through Strike's eyes, who has a pretty poor view on humanity?  Hmm.)  The amount of bad in these characters far outweighed the good, and it made it hard to root for any of them.  (Except for Robin. I was rooting for her, and hope that she has more and more page time as this series advances.)

So, when I came to the grand reveal, I was both stunned at the plotting that brought me to that point, and let down because I didn't really care.  If any of those characters had killed Quine I would have had the same reaction.  I wanted to gasp and cry, "THEM?!?  THEY DID IT?!???!"  But instead I was more hoping that Strike would just lock everybody up for being selfish jerks.

If the plot was great but the characterization was poor in a romance novel, I would have given this book a much lower rating.  But, seeing as this is a mystery, I awarded that incredible plot with four stars.  I enthusiastically recommend this to mystery lovers.  (Though not to romance lovers.)

Bottom Line: Fans of crime novels are sure to love this mystery, though it may be difficult to find someone to cheer for.  Also, readers sensitive to language should be aware that the language in this book is strong and frequent. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book-to-Film: Paddington by Michael Bond

The beloved picture book is on its way to the big screen.

Film plot synopsis from IMDB:

A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist...

The film is scheduled to be released this coming Christmas. (That is, if you still want to see it after that creepy taxidermist line in the summary.  The bear on the film's poster even sort of looks taxidermified.  Gross.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Some people may choose their characters based on the company they would provide or based on the hotness factor.  I chose my characters based on their ability to GET ME THE HECK OFF THAT ISLAND.  

(I'm a big fan of air conditioning and indoor plumbing.)

10. Yoda
9. Gandalf
8. Albus Dumbledore
7. Merlin
6. Morpheus
5. Katniss Everdeen
4. Ellen Ripley
3. Charles Xavier
2. Jack Bauer
1. Hermione Granger


Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Friday, July 18, 2014

Feature Friday: Every Letter in the Alphabet Graphed by its Frequency of Use

This article got the word-nerd in me all giddy.

From io9:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Discussion: When Book Lovers and Non-book Lovers Collide

During last week's Top Ten Tuesday post, I mentioned that it bugs me when people say that they wish they had more time to read.  One of my book blogger friends, Marlene, who writes at The Flyleaf Review and is one of the sweetest people around, asked for clarification.   Looking back, it's obvious to me now that my statement wasn't very clear, so I'm glad she pushed me to write a more coherent explanation.  (Thanks, Marlene!  You're the best!)  

I promptly wrote back the longest response to a comment I think I've ever written, and as I was writing (and writing, and writing, and writing... sorry, Marlene) I realized that I was talking about a bigger issue.  But before I get into that, a story:

I once was sitting with a group of people when the topic of books came up.  Like any bookworm would, I sat up a little straighter, excited to talk about something I love so much.  One person mentioned a book they had recently read, and another person mentioned another book... and so it went for a few minutes.

Then one woman, who until this point had been silent, loudly (and, maybe just a little smugly) said, "Well I would read, but I don't have the time."

It's not uncommon for people to lament over their busy schedules, but this particular comment really rubbed me the wrong way.  Implied in this comment was that reading is a luxury allowed only to those with "less important" demands on their time.  It felt like a passive-aggressive snub against readers, said in order to make herself feel better for not reading.  As I saw it, she was trying to justify her non-reading habits by using time as an excuse, while still enjoying the label of "reader" since, you know, she would if she had time.  

It was irritating.

It gnawed at me because, hey, I don't have a luxurious life either. I'm not sitting here between my pet cheetahs and sipping on Winston cocktails between chapters.  I'm not reading because I have nothing better to do. I felt like she was putting me down for reading to make herself feel better for not reading. And I don't think that's fair. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I understand that many people genuinely want to read more and genuinely can't as much as they would like.  I understand that feeling, and I'm not referring to them here.  I'm not talking about the people who wish there were more hours in the day in which to squeeze one more chapter.  

I AM talking about the people who use their schedules as an excuse not to read at all.  I'm talking about the people who don't choose to read even when they do have the time.  I'm talking about the people who pretend that they would read if only their busy life allowed them the time, so as to appear bookish without actually putting in the effort.  I'm talking about non-readers who pretend to be readers.   

But here's where the bigger issue comes in:  WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER IF SOMEONE IS A "READER" OR NOT?

I'm honestly asking.  If you have an answer, please enlighten me. 

Looking back, that woman was probably feeling embarrassed because she couldn't contribute to the conversation.  She didn't deal with it well, but it was her coping strategy.

Me, I love books.  I really do.  Plus the general satisfaction of finishing a novel, having a strong, ongoing, positive relationship with books allows me to pat myself on the back when articles like this one and this one come along.  The benefits of reading are many and mighty.  I realize that I enjoy a certain level of cultural admiration for being fairly well-read, so I sort of get why someone would pretend to be a reader in order to enjoy the intellectual esteem that comes with the label.


You know what I'm bad at?  Yoga.  Honestly.  I cannot take Yoga seriously.  Every time I've tried it I end up on the floor in a puddle of strangely-bent limbs and laughing my head off.  It just doesn't work for me.  

You know what else I'm bad at?  Chess.  I once lost a game to my six-year-old cousin.  And I was really trying, too.  I could go on about my weaknesses, but I'll spare you.

Why do these labels matter?  So you like Zumba.  Good for you!  Can't we just celebrate your Zumba-loving-self without comparing it to my own lack of Zumba love??  Can't we just appreciate the good in each other?  Can't we let all the labels, be they "nerd" or "jock" or "reader" or "liberal" or something else, just go by the wayside?  Can't we just support each other and hold hands and sing kumbaya??

I realize that this post reveals my hippie tendencies.  ("hippie," there's another label for you.)  I don't like comparing.  I don't like being put down in order to make someone else feel better.  I don't want to feel ashamed for reading.  I want us all to treat each other with courtesy and respect.


If I want others to respect my decision to prioritize books and reading in my life, I need to respect their reading decisions as well, regardless of whether it involves high-brow Pulitzer winning Literature or middle grade books or sci-fi or harlequin romances.  Regardless of whether it means they read a lot of books, or only a few books, or none at all.  Very few "readers" defend the right of others to choose not to read.  I will tout the benefits of reading forever, but from now on I pledge to defend the reading choices of others, even if I personally disagree with them.  Then maybe I can help our culture be more accepting.  Maybe I can, in some small way, enable change.  And maybe, someday, when I'm in a group of people that includes a non-reader (whether it's because they genuinely don't have the time or because they would just rather do something else) they won't feel embarrassment at their reading choices, and won't need to lie to cover it up.

All of this is to say, let's all treat each others' reading choices with a little more respect.  This world needs all types.  Even you.  Even me.  Let's make it a nice world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book-To-Film: Three Books I Want to See Adapted to the Small Screen

With the recent Emmy nominations, it appears that book-to-television adaptations are getting some nice recognition.  (House of Cards, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black all received multiple noms.)  Books and films have enjoyed a happy relationship, and I'm hoping the success of these shows will prove to television producers that books make great fodder for TV shows as well.  

Books don't adapt to television as often as they adapt to film, I think, because the story is already written and has a definite ending.  So the TV show would have to be two or three seasons, or however long it took, to really tell the story.  It couldn't go any longer, though.  That's the trick.  If the show is successful then the TV producers won't want to end it, but would rather drag it on for the money, so having a nonnegotiable end date is not a good thing for them.  HOWEVER, some of these stories could really adapt well to television, if the producers were willing to try it.  With the pack of fans that come with many of these books, wouldn't it be better to have a few 3-season guaranteed hits rather than the endless parade of dumb pilots that never gain traction or make it past one season??  If the world ran around me (which would make everyone happy, I'm sure) I'd like to see these books adapted to the small screen as well:

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
I just barely finished this book last week (review will be up soon!) but I think this would make an awesome TV show.  Maisie is an unusual and really likable protagonist, and the story is constantly changing with several side plots to focus on in various episodes: Maisie and Luther, whether or not Wilder is a bad guy, the character arcs of everyone in the fireteam, Maisie's parents' fates, the epic badness of GT, the intergalactic threat to earth...  ARE YOU LISTENING, TV GODS?!??  IT WOULD BE AWESOME.

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Pirates, ninjas, blood magic, curses, angry gods, feuding families, manticores... NEED I GO ON??  The book is written in a very TV-adaptable way, with scenes playing out almost like episodes in the book. This one might be a risk since fantasy-type shows are very niche, but with the right screenwriters and a solid cast, this could really be fantastic.  Plus, there are two books in this duology, so there would be enough material for at least a couple of seasons.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
The things that bugged me about this series could easily be fixed by transferring the medium of the story from book to television.  For example, in the book we never get enough information about the rebellion to satisfy my curiosity.  It makes sense why this happens in the book since it's all told from America's perspective, but it TV you can open up to include several viewpoints.  I imagine Georgia's perspective getting a lot of airtime, as well as America's parents, and the other Selection contestants, and probably Lucy's and maybe even Queen Amberly's as well.  And, obviously, Aspen and Maxon would get a lot of scenes without America as well, just to show what's really going on it worlds outside America's.  Plus, with three books, you'd definitely get at least three seasons.  Just thinking about it makes me excited.  I wish it would really happen!

Tell me, what would you adapt to TV??!?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bookmark Dragon's Top Ten Favorite Films

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Films

This may shock you, but I do more than read books.  One of the things I like to do is watch films.  Here are my top ten favorite movies!

10. Chocolat
The setting, the music, the themes of acceptance and forgiveness... this film kills it.

9. Hamlet
I've always loved Mel Gibson's constantly simmering portrayal of Hamlet.

8. Amelie
This one makes the list for pure quirk factor.

7. Newsies
My 10-year-old self would never forgive me if I didn't include this one.

6. La Vita e Bella
This is actually my husband's favorite film, but I love it too.

5. Stranger Than Fiction
"Who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?"
"Harold, if you pause to think, you'd realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led... and, of course, the quality of the pancakes."

4. Up
Seriously, you will feel every emotional known to humankind within the first ten minutes.

3. Water
You'll never forget this story.

2. Singing in the Rain
A fail-safe pick-me-up.

1. The Village
M. Night Shyamalan sometimes gets a bad rap, and I don't know very many others who adore this film like I do, but I maintain that it has one of the best scripts ever written, and one of the greatest love stories ever depicted on screen.

What are your favorite films?  I'm looking for recommendations!